by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
It’s a happy time at the library for internet users. We have increased our speed from 1.5 Mbps to 12. How’s that for a jump ahead in technology? You should notice a big difference on our public computers and on your mobile devices on the wi-fi. I know I’ve noticed it.
Things can still get a little bit slow when our computers are full. If you have twenty-five people online here, some of them streaming video or downloading something, 12 Mbps still can get a bit stretched. But despite a few traffic jams, it’s like driving a sports car now instead of a lawn mower. Litchfield Library is one of the busiest in the library system for internet use, so we will all appreciate it. Even checking out your books goes faster.
We’re so grateful that the federal e-rate program which helps public libraries offer broadband access to people throughout the country has allowed us to adjust for our demand like this. Many of our rural residents cannot get anything faster than dial-up at home, and most websites now require so much more than that. Even people in town who could get high-speed internet cannot always afford it, or a computer of their own.
According to the Pew Research Center this month, 77% of Americans who use the internet but don’t have access at home say that internet access at their public library is important to them and their family. People living in lower-income households are much more likely to say that internet access at libraries is important to them.
People use our computers to take online classes, complete job training modules, apply for jobs and unemployment, print boarding passes and event tickets, buy things online, search real estate listings… the list goes on and on. Just think of how many things you search for online and how much you keep in touch with people through email and social media, and then imagine someone who has no way to do any of that. Many people in that situation use the library to do it.
With the new iPads and laptops in the district this fall, I expect that more kids will need to use our wi-fi than ever before to do their homework in the evenings and on weekends. There’s no longer a complicated sign-in process to use our wi-fi; just choose the Litchfield Public Library network, accept the terms of service, and you’re in. There is no password. It will time out after you’ve been on for four hours, so save your work if you’re doing a long project. Our wi-fi works in the parking lot, so you could do some emergency homework in your minivan even when we’re closed. The wi-fi turns on early in the morning and off late at night, well beyond our business hours.
Part of the role of the public library is to provide access to information. In today’s world, so much of the information is online. If you need internet access, whether on your own mobile device or our computer, you can visit the library to do that. I hope you’ll enjoy the change in our service. Faster is better!